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News » Sixers humbled by defending champion Celtics


Sixers humbled by defending champion Celtics


Sixers humbled by defending champion Celtics
BOSTON - The message wasn't scrawled on the chalk board in the 76ers' locker room. Really, it wasn't necessarily even in the box score of this 102-78 loss to the Boston Celtics.

But the message coach Maurice Cheeks left for his players was palpable. None of them was willing to say exactly what it was. But it wasn't pleasant. How could it be? It wasn't simply that the Sixers fell behind by as many as 30 points, because just about every team has a night like that here and there.

It was about the way the Sixers played. Or didn't play.

"Yeah, I left one," Cheeks said after taking about 5 minutes longer than usual to meet with reporters. "I left it with them."

He has left messages before. Was this one stronger? Perhaps more definitive?

"For me, yeah," Cheeks said after his team absorbed its third straight loss and fell to 7-9. "But you have to ask them that. But, for me, yes."

This was the night after Thanksgiving, followed quickly by indigestion.

The Celtics cooked the Sixers. Had them for dessert. Feel free to throw in your own punch line.

On Black Friday, the Sixers were barely a face in the crowd. They might as well have been at a mall. Maybe they could have gotten position in a scramble for a parking spot.

The Celtics, the NBA's defending champions who won the Atlantic Division title by 25 games last season, might win it by more this season. They're 15-2, and held the Sixers to 29 points in the first half, the lowest half by any opponent so far.

Still, this is supposed to be a Sixers team significantly better than last season, having added Elton Brand and five other new faces.

But it isn't. Certainly not so far.

"We should be playing better than we are," Andre Iguodala said. "We've been in this situation before. We had a losing streak last year. A loss like that, you can't pinpoint one person, one thing. You've got to look at yourself . . . We've got to play better.

Asked whether he expected "changes," Iguodala paused and said: "We've all been around Basketball a long time. We understand what goes on. That's not our call."

Asked whether the players might meet to talk about it, he said: "Maybe that's called for. I'm not a guy for words. I just feel like we have to go out and put it together. Enough guys understand. We've got to get on each other more, too, hold each other accountable to a higher standard."

"I've got to look at myself," he said. "I don't think I've played one good game this whole year. I've got to put myself at a comfort level, get in a zone. I haven't had a chance to be really comfortable. I've got to find a way to do that. I'll get there. I've got to put that on myself, try to do more to help us win. I can be a better creator, get myself more open looks, be a little more assertive, try to have better ball movement, attack a little more."

That's a lot on one guy's plate. But there's a lot on most of their plates now, and most of it isn't pretty.

"Tonight was probably our worst game of the year so far," Thaddeus Young said. "We didn't do anything right. We were just out there playing."

"I think everybody's surprised, because we all expect to win," Iguodala said.

Funny, that's what the Celtics expect. And they do. Last night, Ray Allen led them with 23 points, packing 15 into the third quarter, at one point running off 11 in succession, including three three-pointers. It's telling that the Celtics dominated this one with Kevin Garnett (16 points) taking only two rebounds.

"They just beat us top to bottom," Cheeks said. "They showed why they were world champions last year. They stifled us, took us out of every set we had. They proved the reason why they're the No. 1 defensive team. They denied. They pressured. The way they play, Garnett sets their tone . . . It starts on the defensive end.

"I was just trying to figure out different combinations to put out there, to see what we could get done. Their defense was a major factor, no matter who we put in the game. I'm just trying to figure some things out. Any team that beat us like that, it wouldn't matter who beat us."

It was, however, the defending champions.

"We're not that team across the hall," said Brand, who had 18 points and eight rebounds. "They're what we aspire to be. They bought into playing hard, doing what it takes. We're not there yet, but I can foresee it."

As far as what Cheeks told them afterward, Brand said: "It was definitely a strong message. But it's not even a message from the coach, relayed to the players. It's us. It's us out there. We need that same swagger they had the second half of last year. I'm ready to be part of it. I'm thirsty." *

For more Sixers coverage, read the Daily News' Sixers blog, Sixerville, at

http://go.philly.com/sixerville.


Author: Fox Sports
Author's Website: http://www.foxsports.com
Added: November 29, 2008

 

 
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